Monday, December 01, 2014

Packers Beat Patriots in Epic Style

Early last evening, the Green Bay Packers held on for a hard-won victory over the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field. With no timeouts left, QB Aaron Rodgers was able to kneel down three times and run out the clock to seal the 26-21 win. In truth, the game was not as tight, for the most part, as the score would indicate.

The Packers racked up a dominant offensive performance, accounting for 478 total yards, the most given up by the Patriots this season, holding a more than 13-minute time of possession advantage over the Pats, and running 70 plays to New England's 50-something. Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns. But the Packers also left lots of points on the field, having to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns on early redzone possessions, otherwise they could have put a large point spread between themselves and New England. As many have pointed out, had the Packers gone on to lose this game, that would have been the storyline: how many points the Pack didn't get that they should have.

But on this day, the Packers played in near-championship style against an equally great opponent and coaching staff. They ran Eddie Lacy early and often to force the Pats to bring up a safety nearer the line. While Jordy Nelson was only able to snag two passes on the day because of the tight coverage, one of those two went for a 45-yard touchdown catch and run with 14 seconds left in the first half. It was huge. Rookie wide receiver Davante Adams also had a good day, although he had what could have been a game-changing drop late in the game. It was a pass at the goal line where he was open and failed to make the catch. It was another one of those lost opportunities for points. As was a rare missed field goal by K Mason Crosby.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets sacked late in the 4th quarter by Packers Mike Neal and Mike Daniels
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

But let's not focus on the negative here, especially with such a great win. Instead let's give some praise to the Packers defense which stymied QB Tom Brady most of the day. While the Pack only got one sack on the veteran quarterback (which came at a very good time and led to a missed field goal late in the game), the defense had enough pressure on Brady often enough to alter his throws. At times, Brady looked very off. In this battle of number 12's from California, Rodgers was the clear winner.

Give head coach Mike McCarthy kudos for mixing up the game plan, the formations and the personnel. One of the biggest changes was the use of LB Sam Barrington in the middle on the nickel scheme in place of A. J. Hawk. Given this was the scheme for a good chunk of the game, second-year player Barrington received most of the playing time over nine-year veteran Hawk. It's been obvious to many -- including yours truly -- that Hawk's mobility isn't what it used to be...and it used to be slow to begin with. He got exposed badly in Minnesota last weekend and obviously coach McCarthy made the calculation he couldn't have that type of exposure against the Patriots. Barrington performed very well. We may be starting to see the changing of the guard at middle linebacker. See this article for more on Barrington and Hawk.

So, Packer fans, our team sits at 9-3 atop the NFC North and tied for wins in the NFC with Arizona and Philadelphia. Next up is Atlanta which leads the woeful NFC South with a 5-7 record.

Go Pack Go!!!